North Greenford United 3 – 1 Guildford City

CITY acquitted themselves well in this spirited encounter despite the worst weather you could wish to play football in.  In fact the visitors had been matching their hosts pretty well until a poor defensive decision halfway through the first half led to North Greenford scoring.  Two more goals duly followed, one surely a goal of the season contender, and we started to wonder if this was going to be another one of those thumpings we have come to know so well this season.  Luckily Guildford got back into the groove in the second half and while they were never going to win from 3-0 down they did at least break the scoring hoodoo which has devilled them throughout February.

This was another one of those nightmare venues to get to, especially for a midweek game and I have nothing but sympathy for those North Greenford fans who braved the Spectrum on no less than three occasions a few seasons ago when our home fixture had to be abandoned on two occasions!!  The distance and it has to be said, a complete lack of organisation did for the student contingent once again as they realised they were not going to get from Guildford to the ground in the space of an hour.  Meanwhile Mr Pegman had ante natal classes (well I am hoping his wife Jenny did actually but you never know…) so that left just Paul, Moaning Tone, Matt and I to brave the gales and lashing rain in Middlesex.  Matt and I met up for a drink at the Black Horse and some much appreciated grub before following the route of the canal to the ground.

By the time we reached Berkeley Fields I was sincerely wishing I had had the foresight to pack at least one of the following: a coat; waterproof trousers; waterproof legwarmers; a tent; a warm flask of tea; an electric blanket… you get the idea.  Luckily we didn’t have to wait long for kick off and the game duly started.  City were immediately on the back foot as they had to play literally into the teeth of the driving rain and gales.  Any shot over about shoulder height was liable to end up going back the way it had come.  Despite this, Guildford won a corner in the opening minutes which they were unfortunately unable to convert and in the 6th minute new signing Harrison Carnegie fired an impressive shot at Jallow in the North Greenford goal, which the he held comfortably.  Minutes later the Blues notched their first effort from a corner, the ball dropping into the penalty area and a scramble developing before it was hooked away.  In the 14th minute, Carnegie showed flashes of his tremendous pace as he shredded his marker and fired in a good cross which beat the defenders but fell just beyond Banton-Brown in the box.  Moments later a similar run won City a corner but they were unable to trouble their hosts.  The home side had made an unconvincing start but soon started to make the wind count in their favour.  In the 23rd minute Guildford were lucky that Smelt was able to get to the ball ahead of a pacey Blues forward and moments later he was forced into a good save (which he perhaps could have caught under less trying conditions), pushing the ball over the bar for a corner.  It was from this that the home side notched their first goal – the ball being only partially cleared and a City defender hesitating, allowing Jamie Diston to shoot past the helpless Jack Smelt.

1-0 was not a worrying scoreline but setback soon turned to disaster as City gave away possession almost from the kick off and the impressive Myhill powered across the edge of the Guildford penalty area before firing an absolutely fabulous drive straight into the top corner – Smelt had no chance.  With scarcely time to register their predicament, City again conceded possession and, with their second defensive error in the space of 5 minutes allowed Ricky Pither to turn and shoot clinically past the Guildford keeper.  The rate of goals was now reaching terrifying proportions yet somehow the home side did not add to their tally and the visitors managed to win a freekick on the edge of the Blues penalty area in the 36th minute – unfortunately the ball went straight into the wall and although a corner followed moments later, Guildford could not notch an effort on goal.  Greenford turned the screw again before halftime and Smelt had to be on top form to dive and direct a piledriver wide of the post for a corner which luckily came to nothing.  The half concluded with another corner from which a Blues player headed wide.

There was only one thing on everyone’s mind when that whistle blew – head for the nice warm clubhouse and get a pint!  In fact it was a huge effort to bring ourselves to come out for the second half but we eventually emerged and were relieved to see the rain had eased off a little (that didn’t last long, needless to say!)

The whistle blew for the second half and immediately Guildford came under immense pressure as North Greenford sought to extend their lead.  Somehow though, a combination of Smelt and a little bit of luck, prevented them from hitting the back of the net.  In fact City won a corner in the 49th minute but typically the ball was cleared and the Blues then went on a rampage and should have scored, Myhill firing just wide.  Minutes later Gary Senior went through in goal but Smelt bravely advanced out of his penalty area and slid to clear the ball to safety.  At last however, the conditions started to work in the visitors’ favour and they began to look dangerous, heading over the bar from a corner in the 58th minute before, moments later, new signing Jamie King tenaciously chased down a backpass and was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by the Greenford keeper, the ref pointing to the penalty spot.  Craig Moore’s other half could scarcely bare to watch as the City captain stepped up and fired a great penalty into the bottom corner, sending the keeper the wrong way.  After no less than 554 minutes, Guildford City had finally scored a goal.  Let’s hope it is the first of many!

Surprisingly it could have been 3-2 moments later, Banton-Brown beating the defender and appearing to be through on goal but he couldn’t quite get to the ball and the moment passed.  City continued to look threatening however with Carnegie in particular causing all sorts of problems with his pace.  It was inevitable that the home side would get back into their stride again and in the 72nd minute were extremely unfortunate not to score from a corner, the ball being cleared off the line by a sharp City defender.  The minutes ticked down and it became plain that there would be no fairytale ending to the game for the visitors, there was some satisfaction however in not having conceded in the second half.  This despite an audacious lob from North Greenford in the 86th minute, followed by another spectacular save by Jack Smelt to deny Senior a minute from time when a goal looked a certainty.

Lots of food for thought for the players after this game but hopefully some positives too which the players can take into their crunch game against Chessington and Hook on Saturday.

NORTH GREENFORD UTD: B. Jallow; S. Hillier; S. Pearsall; J. Diston; C. Meddes; M. Murray; A. Myhill (sub J. Sparrowhawk, 86); C. Hibbs; G. Senior; R. Pither; J. Bennett

Subs not used: L. Bird; J. Enner; S. Staunton; A. Patterson

GUILDFORD CITY: J. Smelt; G. Tydeman; T. Chaplin; Tom Penson; T. Tydeman (sub E. Massey, 52); Jamie King (sub P. Gough, 74); S. Sheppard (sub D. Elgar, 64); C. Moore; L. Banton-Brown; Harrison Carnegie; K. Popovich

Subs not used: None